Victims of Manchester Arena bombing 'were denied vital assistance'

Victims of Manchester Arena bombing 'were denied vital assistance'

February 10, 2021

Victims of Manchester Arena bombing were denied ‘vital assistance’ as they lay injured and dying in foyer, public inquiry hears

  • Five crews with specialist equipment and training did not enter City Room foyer
  • First first engine did not arrive at scene of the terror attack until two hours later 
  • Salman Abedi killed 22 people in May 2017 when he detonated an explosive 

Victims of the Manchester Arena bombing were denied ‘vital assistance’ as they lay dying and injured in the foyer, a public inquiry into the terror attack was told.

Fire crews with specialist equipment and training were not mobilised to enter the City Room foyer where Salman Abedi detonated an explosive killing 22 people in May 2017, and the first fire engine did not arrive until more than two hours later.

Police declared a marauding terrorist firearms attack some 16 minutes after the blast but did not inform the fire and ambulance services.

It was said only one paramedic entered the scene in the first 40 minutes after the explosion. 

A similar omission happened a year earlier at a training exercise involving a mock terrorist on the loose at the Trafford Centre and led to a 90-minute delay of fire and ambulance services arriving at that scene, the inquiry has heard.

Exercise Winchester Accord in May 2016 was labelled ‘a disaster’ by inquiry chair Sir John Saunders as fire chiefs concluded that the police’s focus was on ‘neutralising the situation rather than what the other agencies needed to do’.

Victims of the Manchester Arena bombing were denied ‘vital assistance’ as they lay dying and injured in the foyer, a public inquiry into the terror attack was told. Pictured: Emergency services at the scene in May 2017

Giving evidence today, Michael Lawlor, a senior national inter-agency liaison officer with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) said on the night of the bombing there were two specialist vehicles carrying 12 responders available in the event of a marauding terrorist attack.

The crews could have taken 10 stretchers to the City Room to assist moving casualties to a holding point before transportation to hospital and they also had equipment to treat the wounded and possibly stem bleeding, he said.

John Cooper QC, representing the bereaved families, asked him: ‘You accept don’t you that there were not only lengthy delays as far as the deployment of fire personnel are concerned but in relation to specialist equipment it never even arrived at the Arena?’

Mr Lawlor said: ‘That’s correct, sir.’ 

Mr Cooper said: ‘And that is very serious, isn’t it?’ 

The witness replied: ‘Absolutely, sir.’

Michael Lawlor (pictured), a senior national inter-agency liaison officer with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) said on the night of the bombing there were two specialist vehicles carrying 12 responders available in the event of a marauding terrorist attack

Mr Cooper went on: ‘The training your colleagues had, the equipment your colleagues had and the availability of resources that others such as the ambulance service might have been able to use, that just simply was taken out of the equation, wasn’t it?’

Mr Lawlor said: ‘It was, sir.’

Mr Cooper said: ‘I am in no way impugning brave individual men and women of your colleagues who no doubt would have wanted to be there providing their skill and care to stricken members of the public, you understand my criticisms don’t lie there of course.

‘But the fact of the matter is for some reason, and the chair will decide what, vital assistance to casualties, vital assistance to the dying was denied of them, wasn’t it?’

Mr Lawlor replied: ‘That’s correct sir.’

Reports of gunfire came in after the explosion but were later proved wrong.

Fire crews with specialist equipment and training did not enter the City Room foyer where Salman Abedi (pictured) detonated an explosive killing 22 people in May 2017, the public inquiry heard

The inquiry has also heard that only one paramedic was at the City Room for the first 40 minutes after the blast.

John Fletcher, GMFRS group manager at the time of the bombing, e-mailed a Greater Manchester Police officer in the days after Exercise Winchester Accord to voice his concerns about the communication breakdown.

He told the inquiry he was observing the exercise and was surprised at the length of time it was taking to deploy GMFRS and North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) personnel to carry out triage and rescue.

Mr Fletcher asked his police counterpart about considering preparing a one-day awareness course for commanders from emergency services ‘to discuss individual agency capabilities’.

He wrote: ‘I realise this is a big ask but think it would go a long way in stopping repetition of the same learning outcomes from multiple exercises.’

Communication remained a concern from a ‘table-top’ exercise, named Hawk River, in March 2017 in which the police officer nominated to declare a marauding terrorist attack said they did not have time to give a ‘running commentary’ to fire and ambulance services because of the number of tasks they had.

The inquiry continues.

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